By Kevin Wilson
Heather Brown and the Zias had quite a start, but Kelli Donovan and the East Central Lady Tigers had a better finish.
Donovan scored all of her 15 points in the second half and hit three 3-pointers in a pivotal 21-6 run, pushing East Central to a 71-66 victory in a Lone Star Conference crossover game Monday night at Greyhound Arena.
Lesli Shores added 13 points and Stormy Griffith 12 for the Lady Tigers, who won despite a season-high 22 from Zia freshman point guard Heather Brown.
Elizabeth Richards had a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Laci Lee recovered from a three-point night on Saturday to score 14 for the Zias, who have gone 1-4 in games decided by five points or less.
“We’ve got to learn how to finish the close ones,” Zia coach Dan Buzard said. “We’ve had enough that we should know by now.”
Donovan helped keep the game close for East Central (5-5), which rallied back from a 40-31 deficit midway through the second half.
“It looked like we were going to get run out of it,” East Central coach Kent Franz said. “Her strong suit is her ability to spot up and shoot the three.”
Donovan, like many of her teammates, seemed to save their best for the second half. Of East Central’s five double-figure scorers, three of them — Donovan, Shores and Rashaundra Singleton (10 points) — were scoreless at the break.
“At halftime, we talked about two things,” Franz said. “We were trying to force too many things on offense, and we had given up 15 offensive rebounds to Eastern New Mexico. We felt like if we could get those things taken care of, we would have better opportunities and they wouldn’t have as many looks at the basket.”
The Lady Tigers did just that, helping to spoil a career night for Brown. The 5-foot-7 guard hit on 7 of 15 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and had already scored a season-high 14 by halftime.
“She’s got the green light to take it when she’s open,” Buzard said of Brown, who started in the place of the injured Kristi McGuire. “She took some good shots and got some to roll in.”
Brown added seven assists, five rebounds and played solid defense on ECU’s Lindsay Sutton. Sutton scored the Lady Tigers’ first eight points, but was held scoreless for a period of 33:18 before she hit a pair of free throws to finish with 10 points and give East Central a 63-61 lead with 1:52 to play.
Buzard thought the loss was a reversal from Saturday’s loss to East Central, as the guards carried too much of the offensive load this time around. Loren Scarlett and Jereena Bosket played much of the second half in foul trouble and combined to score nine points on 4 of 17 shooting, but Buzard felt that was a result of the two not getting the ball in good spots.
The Lady Tigers were led in rebounds by Singleton, a 5-foot-6 guard who pulled down all nine of her boards on the defensive end.
The Zias will go on the road Thursday to face Cameron in another LSC crossover game. The Lady Tigers host Texas Woman’s University on Wednesday night.